Detailed Process of Lampwork Beadmaking (3rd in a series)

Updated: 2 days ago

In previous posts I introduced the concept of lampwork bead making and showed how I have used them in my necklaces, earrings and bracelets. I also provided a brief description of the bead making process. In this post I want go into further detail about the process from the artist’s perspective.

After designing a piece, a lampworker must plan how to construct it. Once ready to begin, the lampworker slowly introduces glass rod or tubing into the flame to prevent cracking from thermal shock. The glass is heated until molten, wound around a specially coated steel mandrel, forming the base bead. The coating is an anti-fluxing bead release agent that will allow the bead to be easily removed from the mandrel, either a clay based substance or Boron nitride. It is this mandrel that forms the hole that beading thread or wire goes through. The bead can then be embellished or decorated using a variety of techniques and materials.


Forms and Types of Glass

Most lampworkers use rods of glass 7–8 mm in diameter, though pre-made stringers are available in 1–3 mm sizes, or rods of 15 mm or more. Sheet glass can be cut with tools into strips, though it is easier to manipulate if attached to a rod first.

Glass is also available in particles of various sizes (frit or powder), which is typically used for surface decorations in lampwork beads.

The lampworker also has a choice of several types of glass and will make a selection based on the design.


Soda lime glass

The most popular glass for lampworking is soda-lime glass, which is available pre-colored. It is the traditional mix used in blown furnace glass, and lampworking glass rods were originally hand-drawn from the furnace and allowed to cool for use by lampworkers. Today soda-lime, or "soft" glass is manufactured globally.

Lead

Lead glasses are distinguished by their lower viscosity, heavier weight, and somewhat greater tolerance for COE mismatches.

Borosilicate